Emergent Molecular Assembly Research Unit

Principal Investigator

PI Name Hiroshi Sato
Degree Ph.D.
Title Unit Leader
Brief Resume
2008 Ph. D., The University of Tokyo
2008 Researcher, JST-ERATO Kitagawas Integrated Pores Project
2010 Project Assistant Professor, Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences, Kyoto University
2012 Assistant Professor, Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences, Kyoto University
2014 Lecturer, Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology, University of Tokyo
2020 Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology, University of Tokyo
2020 Researcher, PRESTO, Japan Science and Technology Agency
2021 Unit Leader, Emergent Molecular Assembly Research Unit, Cross-Divisional Materials Research Program, RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science (-present)
2023 Specially Appointed Professor, International Institute for Sustainability with Knotted Chiral Meta Matter (-present)


The aim of this unit is to unleash the potential of molecules by controlling their assembly and arrangement patterns, and to create novel functions that are impossible to achieve with single molecules. Our specific research themes are as follows.
(1) Creation of materials by precise arrangement of topological bonds: By periodically arranging topological bonds such as catenanes, we will realize new materials.
(2) Sequence control in supramolecular polymerization: In supramolecular polymerization, it is still challenging to control the monomer sequence, so we are trying to control the sequence in coordination polymers.

Research Fields

Chemistry, Materials Science


Crystal engineering
Porous materials


Topological bonds assemble to form porous crystals

Our unit succeeded for the first time in synthesizing crystals by precisely arranging catenane molecules (topological bonds), which are chains of two ring-shaped molecules, and metal ions three dimensionally through coordination bonds. The crystal structure was examined using single crystal X-ray structural analysis, and it was found that more than 90% of the crystal is composed of catenane molecules, that it has a structure with micropores, and that it changes its structure with changes in temperature. Furthermore, it was revealed that the crystal changes its shape when force is applied from the outside and recovers its original shape when the force is removed, showing rubber-like properties despite its crystalline nature. This is expected to lead to the application of innovative porous materials that can absorb and desorb gas molecules, such as carbon dioxide, by pinching and releasing them with a finger.


An elastic porous crystal with a Densely Catenated Backbone


Photoresponsive Porous Crystals

Metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) are porous materials constructed from metal ions and organic ligands, and their various types of pores can be applied to gas storage, separation, catalysis, etc. In general, MOFs that readily take in guest molecules do not readily release them, and there is often a trade-off between taking in and releasing guest molecules. We are challenging this long-standing dilemma for porous materials by developing MOFs composed of diarylethene derivatives, photoreactive molecules. The MOFs can be disassembled into solution by UV light irradiation and reconstructed by visible light irradiation, which enables the highly effective release and uptake of various guest molecules.


Photochemically Crushable and Regenerative Porous Crystals


Hiroshi Sato

Unit Leader hiroshi.sato[at]riken.jp

Naeimeh Bahrilaleh

Visiting Scientist

Wei Yuan

Student Trainee


  1. K. Leng, H. Sato, Z. Chen, W. Yuan, and T. Aida

    Photochemical Surgery” of 1D Metal-Organic Frameworks with a Site-Selective Solubilization/Crystallization Strategy

    J. Am. Chem. Soc. 145, 23416–23421 (2023)
  2. W. Meng, S. Kondo, T. Ito, K. Komatsu, J. Pirillo, Y. Hijikata, Y. Ikuhara, T. Aida, and H. Sato

    An elastic metal-organic crystal with a densely catenated backbone

    Nature 598, 298 (2021)
  3. H. B. Huang, H. Sato, J. Pirillo, Y. Hijikata, Y. S. Zhao, S. Z. D. Cheng, and T. Aida

    Accumulated Lattice Strain as an Internal Trigger for Spontaneous Pathway Selection

    J. Am. Chem. Soc. 143, 15319-15325 (2021)
  4. H. Sato, T. Matsui, Z. Chen, J. Pirillo, Y. Hijikata, and T. Aida

    Photochemically Crushable and Regenerative Metal-Organic Framework

    J. Am. Chem. Soc. 142, 14069 (2020)
  5. J. M. Lee, and H. Sato

    Photoswitching to the core

    Nat. Chem. 12, 584–585 (2020)


Room 411, Main Research Building, Hirosawa 2-1, Wako, Saitama 351-0198 Japan